Brain

I was traversing the maze of my brain: corridors, corners, strange,
          narrow caverns, dead ends.
Then all at once my being like this in my brain, this sense of being
          my brain became unbearable to me.

I began to wonder in dismay if the conclusion I’d long ago come to
          that there can be nothing
that might reasonably be postulated as the soul apart from body and mind was entirely valid.

Why, as many I cherish—Herbert, Hopkins, Weil—have believed, shouldn’t there
          be a substance
neither thought nor matter that floats above both, lifts from both as mist at dawn lifts
          from a lake?

Here was only this cavern registering the hours of my life, and dissipating, misplacing
           all but so few.
If I could posit a soul, might this be its task: to salvage in a convincing way
          all that I’d lost?

Would that be what’s meant by consolation? And if there were a soul, and its consolations,
would I perceive the mist and lake of other souls, too? Would I love them more than
          I already do?

And the lake, and the dawn, and the rudderless barque I picture there: would I love all
          that more, too?
And the mountain behind, scribbled with trees? And the lace of the dark seeping down,
          seeping down?

Presented by

C. K. Williams’s new collection of poems, Wait, and a critical study, On Whitman, will be published this spring. He received the 2003 National Book Award for The Singing and the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Repair.

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